In an ideal world, consumers would be able to get all the nutrients they need from their diets, but more often than not, that’s just not possible. Even a complete diet doesn’t always give consumers 100% of the nutrients they need, especially if they have underlying health conditions or follow restrictive diets. That’s where dietary supplements come in. Read on to find out about seven dietary supplements that should be taken on a daily basis to ensure optimal health.
Antioxidants are natural or man-made substances that help to prevent the oxidative cell damage caused by free radicals. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids like lycopene and lutein. Many fruits and vegetables contain trace amounts of antioxidants, but it can be difficult for consumers to get enough of them through dietary sources alone.
The best way to increase antioxidant consumption is to take a supplement that contains natural antioxidants, not man-made equivalents. Try taking a daily greens supplement and combining it with increased fruit and vegetable consumption.
The body uses calcium to create and maintain dense, strong bones and teeth. Unfortunately, almost half of all Americans don’t get enough calcium through nutritional sources alone. Calcium can be found in many foods, ranging from leafy green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and other brassicas to salty fish, nuts, beans, lentils, and dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Some consumers get enough calcium from dietary sources alone, although this is rare given that experts recommend consuming at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Most can benefit from taking calcium supplements or multivitamins that contain plenty of this essential nutrient. Women, in particular, are prone to loss of bone density as they age and should take calcium supplements regardless of what kind of diets they follow.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb and process calcium, so without sufficient levels of vitamin D, calcium supplementation won’t do any good. Some vitamin D is produced naturally in the body when people are exposed to sufficient sunlight, but modern lifestyles limit most people’s sun exposure, and sunscreen actually blocks vitamin D synthesis, which makes it even harder to get enough of it. Dietary sources of vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods, can all supply a small amount of vitamin D, but the best solution for those who don’t spend much time in the sun is to take a supplement.
Some people are more prone to zinc deficiencies than others. Older people and those who live stressful lifestyles tend to have more problems with low zinc levels. This is unfortunate given that zinc provides essential support to the immune system, aids in wound healing, and helps the body convert key nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, and fat into energy.
The average American diet is low in zinc. Foods like oysters, grass-fed beef, organ meats, sardines, brown rice, wheat germ, tempeh, and others can act as good dietary sources of this important nutrient. Unfortunately, since the body can’t store it efficiently, consumers would need to incorporate these foods into their diets on a daily basis to ensure they don’t suffer from zinc deficiencies. Experts recommend taking a daily multivitamin or specialized product that contains at least 5-10 mg of zinc to supplement dietary sources.
Different people need different amounts of iron. Consumers who eat a ton of red meat are less likely than others to suffer from iron deficiency, which can cause problems like decreased energy, inhibited brain function, and low red blood cell counts. While all consumers can benefit from some iron supplementation, vegetarians and vegans typically have more trouble getting sufficient iron from dietary sources, and some people’s bodies need more iron than others.
Women who are menstruating or pregnant, adolescents going through puberty, and anyone suffering from anemia will need more iron than other demographic groups. It’s important to exercise caution when supplementing dietary sources of iron, though. Iron overload can also cause health problems, so while the amount of iron present in multivitamins and natural wellness supplements won’t cause problems, strong ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, or ferric sulfate supplements can cause iron overload.
B vitamins help to break down nutrients like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to make them available to the body in the form of energy, but each of them plays a slightly different role. Vitamin B-12, which is found primarily in meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, helps with DNA synthesis and maintaining the nervous system and circulatory system health.
The easiest form of B-12 to absorb is methylcobalamin, so consumers looking for the perfect multivitamin or supplement should look for it on ingredient lists. Daily supplements should contain no more than one to two mcg of methylcobalamin, though, because the body can’t process much of it at once. Any unprocessed B-12 vitamins will be expelled from the body in urine, so it won’t do any harm to consume too much B-12, but it also won’t do any good.
Folate is most commonly associated with prenatal supplements since it aids in fetus development and helps to prevent birth defects. Pregnant women aren’t the only people who need to ensure that they are getting sufficient quantities of folate in their diets or through supplementation, though. Folic acid also helps with nail and hair growth, reduces inflammation, and even helps to fight off depression.
Dietary sources of folic acid include dark, leafy greens, beans, citrus, and avocados. Aim to incorporate around 400 mcg of folate from dietary sources or supplements every day. Pregnant women should aim for 600 mcg and all consumers should take it on an empty stomach for maximum absorption.
The Bottom Line
For most modern consumers, dietary sources of vitamins and other nutrients are not sufficient. Daily multivitamins contain some essential nutrients, but not always in sufficient concentrations. Those who are concerned about vitamin deficiencies should consult a nutritionist or carefully evaluate their diets and current supplement regimens to ensure they are getting everything needed to stay healthy.